Thursday, December 29, 2016


I had every intention of getting up early this morning to do my reading and writing.  But I didn't.  The alarm went off and I hit snooze in a stupor.  The next time it went off I had a warm little monkey cuddling next to me.  I turned it off.

Don't judge me, I'm on break.

I had big plans for this break. I was going to read entire books. I was going to make sure the couch developed an imprint of my bottom.  Not so much.  Last week I was running around like a fool getting ready for Christmas.  I did manage to stay home Friday.  This week I've been running around like a fool with my boys.  It's been great.

Today will be my stay home day.  It's currently 9:30 am CST.  I'm in my pajamas. I plan to stay that way for a long while.  I need to pack up Christmas but that wouldn't take too long.  I have some projects I'm working on but one already failed miserably this morning.  I might try again tomorrow, maybe.

Several friends posted this on Facebook earlier in the week.  It sums today up very well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


I love a good homemade gift.  I love to make homemade gifts.  I hope people like receiving them.

I remember as a kid I'd get homemade gifts from my Granny Gheen.  They were hit and miss, bless her heart.  One year she made all the grandkids banks.  They were mason jars with a cross stitched lid cover thingy. Between the rim of the jar and the seal, she put the cross stitched fabric and stuffed it with cotton so it would stick up over the rim of the jar.  It's hard to describe.  Anyway, it said "Chicken Feed" and had our name and birthday.  On mine, both were wrong - Amiee 7/29 instead of Aimee 7/25.  My sweet Granny struggled with my name and birthday throughout my childhood. At the time I was so offended.  Until I started cross stitching.  At the time,  I didn't realize the time and effort she put into the gift, I just saw the error.  After I knew how much time each jar topper took, I was a little less offended.

Granny Gheen was a quilter and I have several quilts she made for me.  She made me two incredible t-shirt quilts of all my t-shirts from high school and college.   I took out the college one to use in our college week door decorating contest at school and I've left it out in my room.  It was such a labor of love.

My momma crochets.  Two sections of my banquet seating in my kitchen are full of afghan she's made for Ryan, the boys and I.  I have these awesome fingerless gloves she made. My momma's real medium is food.  She is a master chef.  This year from Christmas she made us all strawberry jelly and pumpkin cranberry bread.  I know she spent an entire day on the jelly.

For the past two years at school, my Secret Santas have been very artistic.  I've received paintings, wall hangings and jewelry they created.  Both years it has meant so much to me that they took time out of their business schedules to make something for me.

That's really the thing - the time.  It seems like everyone is so busy.  We want everything to be perfect so we run ourselves ragged doing all the perfect things.  When you create a gift, you are spending your time and rolling the dice on perfect.  Sometimes things work out well, other times the gift gets tossed before it can be given.

But, believe me, I'm not opposed to buying gifts at all! I love shopping for the perfect gift for someone almost as much as I love making them.

Mostly, I just love giving gifts.  It doesn't matter if I've spent my time making them or hunting for them.  I love to surprise my friends and family.  It's my love language!

Here's some gifts I've made lately.

I made these for my Fab Five
for our Christmas Sleepover
My sweet friend Mahlee graduated with
her Masters.  This was her gift. No one can
rock the messy bun like her!
My secret santa at school wrote down that
he liked sneakers, so he got a sneaker cup
I made these for the boys' teachers and office staff.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


My oldest son Sam, recently turned 16. We were able to get him a nice used truck.  He's very excited about it.  

I am scared to death.  

It's a good truck.  He's a good driver, he's completed driver's education and the practice driving  He received a backup camera as a combo birthday and Christmas gift from some sweet and generous family members.  Logically, everything is good to go.  

My stomach knows no such logic.  

Christmas night he drove us to and from my in laws.  He did a great job.  As he was pulling into the neighborhood, I realized that in a week or so he'd be able to drive without Ryan or I in the car.  I almost had a full on panic attack.  

It will be ok, I reasoned.  I'll only let him drive to school and back for the first few months.  That'll work.  Oh, what about church? No problem, he can drive to school and church only.  But what if he wants to go to Chick Fil A after church?  Maybe the one up by the mall, that might be alright if there's not a lot of traffic.  But the one in Forney, NO WAY! He'd have to get on the highway - AT NIGHT!! 

You get the idea, my crazy was spiraling out of control.  

How will he do if Ryan and I aren't there to remind him?  How long before I get that faithful phone call, "Momma, I've had a wreck"?  My mind went wild with assorted crash craziness. This was not a passing thing.  I brought it inside and played with it for a while.  I was edge and cranky.  

Then I remembered something my pastor Randy Wade says, "If you can control everything why do you need GOD?"  If I can care for Sam and protect him all on my own, why does he need a Heavenly Father?  

How does that work, exactly?  How do I stop being in control? I how do I trust GOD to care for my boys?  

Most of us have heard 1 Peter 5:7 - "Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."

Wouldn't it be nice if that was a one time thing? I was anxious about Sam driving a few nights ago, I prayed about it and now it's all good.  That's not how it works.  Right this minute, I'm taking deep breaths because just writing about all this has stirred my anxiety.  It's a minute to minute thing.  Praying as soon as the knots start forming in my stomach.  Preemptive prayer.

That's how GOD works. He's a jealous GOD. He doesn't want a one and done relationship with us.  He was a minute by minute reliance.  Maybe He's using Sam driving to pull me closer to him.  To teach me to rely on him minute by minute.  I'll try to be a quick study.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.

This is John Piper's definition of joy. 

Some people think happiness and joy are synonyms.  I don't. To me, happiness is fleeting, a product of circumstances.  Something good happens and I am happy.  In the next minute, something bad might happen and then I'm unhappy. 

That's why I like Piper's definition.  Joy really doesn't have anything to do with me.  It's a gift of the Holy Spirit.  I think of joy as more a way of being than an emotion.  

I'm not sure you can really see what's happening in this picture but to me, this is a picture of pure joy.  This is a picture of B and his cousins dancing at the end of the movie Sing last night.  

They so thoroughly enjoyed the movie and music that it was totally natural to get up and dance along at the end.  They danced with abandon. They did not care. The music moved them, their hearts were happy and they could not be contained.  JOY!

This is my last post before Christmas.  My prayer for you, your family as well as myself and my family is that we take the time to feel the joy of Christmas.  

I know I work so hard to make sure things are fun and memorable this time of year.  By the time the Christmas Day comes, I'm exhausted.  Honestly, I'm exhausted right now.  There's still so much I want to do on top of my usual responsibilities. But I'm working hard to not let my tiredness steal my joy.  I want to experience the joy of the Holy Spirit this Christmas and every day.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Advent - the arrival of a notable person.  In our family, advent is the celebration of the coming of Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I can not remember when I first bought the advent calendars for the boys.  Since I have three of the exact same calendars, I'm going to assume B-man was on the way or very little.  I know I bought them at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I have never been thrilled with the design on the doors but I liked the size of the doors.

When we first started doing the advent calendars I would run around trying to find small toys to fit inside each door's compartment.  It was a little harder than I thought it would be.   I was super excited to discover Lego Advent calendars.

The Lego calendars are all in one outfits.  You can set them up on a table and be done.  They have a flap that serves as a play mat area.  Kids can push open the numbered door, find a small Lego project with 'directions' on the back of the punched out door.  Since we have our own calendar, I've always just opened the day myself, ripped the door off and put it in our calendars.

Lately, the calendars have been a little tougher.  There's a five year gap between The Bigs and B.  There aren't many things that interest them both.  This year I've stuck to candy for The Bigs and a Lego for B.

I get a few bags of Christmas candy and rotate through them for the month.  I also get a few specials candies for special days.  Last Saturday, Ryan and The Bigs went to see the new Star Wars movie so I put Star Wars Jelly Beans in their calendars that morning.  Later this week we'll load up in the car and look at Christmas lights.  I have chocolate Christmas light bulbs for that day.  I have Hot Chocolate stirrers for our Christmas movie night.

This year I added Bible verses to their calendar.  I went through the birth of Jesus in Luke and Matthew and divided it into 25 days.  Some days have one verse, others have up to five.  I put each day's verse into a Google Slide Presentation.  Then I printed them using a setting that printed 6 slides per page.  We've added them to fridge each day.

I've loved seeing them each day.  It's helped all of us focus on the reason for advent.  We are looking forward to the birth of Jesus Christ.  The calendar helps B keep track of how many days until Christmas.  This year it's even helped him learn about fractions.  On December 5th, he said "We are 1/5th of the way to Christmas!"  Each day brings us close to the big event!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Helping Autistic Kids Handle the Holidays

A couple of years ago, B-man had a major meltdown when presents began showing up in our church lobby.  The gifts were for our annual Sharing Christmas event where we provide gifts to families in need.  B just could not understand why he could not have one of the gifts.  He is a generous and loving kid but he wanted one of those presents.

The event prompted me to write a post for teachers about helping their students with Autism Spectrum Disorder make it through the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I usually repost it each year but I'm a slacker this year and flat out forgot.

Here are some things I'm trying to do with B to help him through this last week before Christmas.

1. Advent Calendar - I'll write more about this tomorrow but we do an Advent Calendar each year.  The boys get a little treat each day.  It helps B see how many days are left before Christmas.  It's a great visual reminder.

2. Schedule - School's out and the schedule goes out the door. I do try to give B time to be less structured during the break.  But I remind him often of what's coming next.  "On Monday, Daddy and I will be gone all day shopping. You'll be with the big boys.  On Tuesday we are going to see Dr. Roberts in the morning then to basketball later that day.  On Wednesday...." You get the picture. We go over this a lot to soothe his mind.

3.  Gifts - I don't put any gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve.  This started out as a necessity. We didn't have the money to shop until I got paid the day Christmas Break started.  Now that's not the reason but Ryan and I have kept the tradition going.  Once we're out of school we do a huge day long shopping trip.  I wrap stuff closer to the day.  If there's nothing under the tree, B can't obsess about what it might be and when he can open it.

4. Santa - We visit Santa early so I can remind B of what he asked for.  You can't add stuff after you've seen Santa!  This one has been a struggle this year.  I'm kinda nervous but holding my ground. I'll update y'all on this one next week.

5. Jesus - We talk often about the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.  We reiterate that Jesus is the true reason for Christmas, not presents.  When B's list starts to grow again and all he wants to talk about is what he's getting, we refocus him on Jesus.  It makes my heart happy to hear him tell me about Jesus' birth.

So, what are the ways you help your kiddo during Christmas?

Thursday, December 15, 2016


He's making a list. He's checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice. 

I love to make lists.  Maybe that's why I love Santa so much - we both know the power of a list.  At this time of year I have several lists going.  I have my usual daily to do list, Christmas to do list, list of what people want for Christmas, a list of things I've purchased for people, grocery list, Christmas dinner grocery list, edible gifts grocery list.

I'm very old school on my lists.  They must be hand written, preferably on fun paper.  And I love to mark through things once they are complete.  It's such a satisfying feeling.  One semi-straight line denotes an accomplishment.  And yes, I do write things down that I've already done so I can mark them off.  Don't judge!

I have to be careful with my lists, especially this time of year. If I'm not careful my days become about marking things off the list.  I overlook the reason for the list and the people effected.  I get so focused that any interruption is a bother.   "I'm trying to get this done for YOU, leave me alone!"

I was feeling this way the other night as I finished up Christmas gifts for the boys' teachers and the ladies in the offices at their school.  I started my project early but then I let other projects sneak in between so I was feeling stressed to finish by my self appointed deadline. I found myself getting frustrated.  Doubt usually pulls up right behind frustration to let me know that I'm killing myself for no good reason, no one is going to like what I've made anyway.

Lately, I've tried to take a different approach. I'm trying to stay focused on the people part of my list.  Yes, I want to get my tasks done but I want to remember WHO I'm doing them for as well.  This has helped me stay a little more focused, a little less stressed and a LOT more thankful this Christmas.

What helps you stay organized?  How to do keep from being over run by your to do list?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yeti Freddy

Yeti Freddy was tired of the snow. So he wanted to go to Hawaii. So he took a cruise far away to the coast of Maui.  And he was happy. 
 by Brennan Bartis

Yesterday was our annual Secret Santa reveal breakfast at school.  I needed to leave the house early to get my Secret Santa breakfast.  Because Ryan and the Bigs were working out, this meant that B needed to go to school with me since before school care wouldn't be open yet. This also meant that he'd need to hang with me at school until his aunt came to pick him up (his school starts about an hour later than mine).

He was great during the Secret Santa breakfast.  He drew. He wandered around looking at everyone's gifts and asking questions.

After the party I needed to help our new 5th grade teacher get an online tested started.  This took a bit of running around.  Mrs. Stokes was so sweet to B.  She let him sit at a table with her students and do their morning writing assignment.  The kids were drawing a character and writing a story about the character.  

B was in his element!

I was able to get everything ready for her while he drew and wrote and visited with the sweet boys at his table.  When I was done I told him it was time to go.  He was a little hesitant.  "They're going to share their stories."

Mrs. Stokes heard him and ushered him to the front of the room to share his story with the class. B read his story, showed his picture and beamed with pride. The kids clapped.  It was awesome!

He didn't want to put his story in his backpack, he wanted to carry it himself. He read it to the ladies in the office. When I put him in the car with his Aunt Laura he was still holding it. She told me he immediately showed it to his teacher in car pool line.  When he got off the bus at my school in the afternoon he was still clutching it!

Mrs. Stokes wasn't expecting a random teacher kid in her room but she rolled with it.  She made him feel special.  He is so proud of the "5th grade writing work" he did.  It took just a few minutes of her time to show kindness to B but she made a huge impact on him.  I am so grateful.

Who can you give a few minutes to today? You never know the impact you'll make!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Goal Update #2

available at:

At the end of October, I set some writing goals for November and shared them with y'all.   Then I updated on my progress here.

The Sparks Notes version (Cliff Notes aren't a thing anymore)...I set a blog goal to brainstorm and schedule topics until the end of the year.  I met that goal on time.  I haven't followed the calendar exactly but it has been really handy to have the list to refer to if I'm feeling a little blocked.

I have not meet my Bible study writing goal.  My goal was to read 2 of the books I ordered about disability in the church by the end of Thanksgiving break.  I finished one very easily.  It wasn't great and I finished feeling sad for the author instead of hopeful.

The second book has turned out to be a difficult read.  I'm about half way through it. The author is a seminary professor and the book is very academic.   I have had to read some of the book out loud to make sure I understand what he's trying to say.

The first half has been about society's views on disability in general.  It has challenged me quite a bit.  I've really spent some time thinking about what I believe about disability.  I'm anxious to get into the theology of disability.  I'm interested to see how the author marries the ideas about disability he's set forth this far with the Bible.

So, I am updating my goals.  My December goal is to finish reading the 2nd book by the end of Christmas Break.  Since I want my goals to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based) I'm not going to add anything else to the goal. I'm feeling pretty stressed at this moment about everything I'd like to accomplished for Christmas.  No need to add more stress.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Secret Life of B's Glasses

I have a job to do.  Just one.  But I don't get to do it often.  I'm lost a lot.  At least that's what I hear.  I don't feel lost.  I feel like I'm hanging out.  In the car, behind the bed, on the cabinet, in a backpack, in the sensory room at school.

I am supposed to work for this funny little dude, B-man.  I like him when I get to see him.  But, like I said, I'm not with him a lot.

He's supposed to wear me all the time but he he likes to take me off and set me down.  He's such a busy dude.  He's always creating or watching videos or talking.  Sometimes it's a relief to be 'lost'. It takes a lot of work to keep up with him.  I used to be orange on the sides.  I don't even know where my orange parts went!

Once I got to hang out for 6 months in the sensory room at school!  I was so well rested when I was finally 'found'.

While I was gone his parents got him another pair.  The new ones look like me, except he has green flames. Flames! Are you for real?  Makes me kinda jealous, I miss my orange parts.  Orange is the man's favorite color.  And I'm super thankful that he met B's dog while I was gone. I would not have wanted dog bite marks on my lens like he had.  There is a positive aspect.  We get to share the load.  Sometimes I work, sometimes he does.  Our man is always working, though.

Wanna know the funniest part of belonging to B-man?  He lives with 4 other people, all bigger than him.  Only one of them seems to notice when I'm not around.  The two biggest ones, I think they are called parents, are clueless.  "Did you wear your glasses today?" "Do you know where your glasses are?"  HAHAHAHA! He never knows where we are!  But his oldest brother, he's better than the rest of them.  "B, here are your glasses." "No, he didn't wear them today"

Maybe these people will get it together. Maybe they wouldn't. I'll keep doing my job when I'm able.  It sure would be easier if I could speak. Then I could just cry out to B "I'm here! You need me!" A pair of glasses can hope.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Enough or Too Much?

One of the things parents of autistic kids are afraid of, I think, is that their kid wouldn't be able to form meaningful relationships.  Many parents are told that their AU kiddo aren't emotional or capable of being empathetic.

Horse phoey!!

My experience is that many autistic kids feel TOO much emotion.  In fact, some autistic people can feel people's emotions as physical sensations.  You walk into the hall and you can feel everything happening there.  As you can imagine, this is overwhelming.

Some of my reading of adult autistic people confirms this.  They feel the emotions but they don't know what to do with them so they shut down.  It reminds me of having a really awful headache.  Everything is amplified.  The softest noise bangs in my ears.  The lowest light is blinding.  All I can do is go to bed.  Imagine feeling that way all the time.

I see this in B.  He's very interested in naming emotions.  He wants words to match with feelings.  He gets very upset when things are going wrong in movies or TV shows. I wrote last week about his reaction in Moana.  When she was in trouble, he was upset.  A similar thing happened this weekend when Ryan was watching Jumanji.

It happens more with TV and movies than in real like, though.  I think it's harder to read emotions in real time.  Emotions in movies and television are heightened to make the point.  The subtle clues of real life are harder to pick up.

What it really boils down to is difference.  We (the royal we of society) have a hard time understanding people who are different from us.  When someone else doesn't process a situation the way we think they should, we judge their response.  We label their response as different and therefor, bad.

In Romans 12, Paul is writing to a church in Rome about using their gifts.  He tells them that each person has a gift and is expected to use it accordingly.  He relates these gifts to the body. Our bodies are one entity made up a variety of organs.  For the body to operate optimally, each organ has to do what God has made it to do.  If your lungs pump blood, you'd have a hard time breathing.  Similarly, God has designed us all to do different things.

Did you catch that!?! God made us different ON PURPOSE! We should celebrate our differences as God's unique handiwork!

So the next time someone reacts to a situation differently than you, use it as an awesome reminder that God created us differently on purpose.  Recognize it.  Celebrate the difference.

I'm so thankful God created Brennan differently.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Visiting Santa

Visiting Santa and being autistic can be akin to oil and water. They just don't mix.  Just like other kids, autistic kids get scared of Santa.  However, B has always loved Santa.  We've had some times when he was scared but not any more than other kiddos.  Our trouble is the line.  B can not do lines.  Too long, too many people, too much!

Four years ago, I tried to take B to meet Santa at a sporting goods store. Their website wasn't very clear about the process and I thought Wednesday night would be a good time to go. I can't remember why it was just B & I but I suspect football had something to do with it.

The store is large and overwhelming in it's own right.  They deck the bottom level out like a Santa's workshop.  We managed to get through the store and to the back, bottom level.  The check in desk had a sign that said "No more tickets to see Santa".  When I spoke to the employee she told me I should have come at 2:30 (it was around 6 pm at this point) to get a ticket.  I asked, "So, there's no way to see Santa tonight?" Nope.

B freaked out "I can't see Santa? Have a been bad? Is that why he wouldn't see me?" We sat down in the middle of the floor, I cradled him and let him cry a minute.  When he was able to pull it together a bit, we left the store.  He was still so confused, wondering if he was a bad boy.

I was heartbroken.  Actually, I still am. I'm tearing up a bit typing this.  I felt guilty, had I understood the process better, we would not be in this situation.  When I got him into his car seat, I slumped in the front seat tears rolling down my face.  I whipped out my phone, let Ryan know what happened then posted to Facebook looking for Santas who made appointments.  We didn't find one that year but Mrs. Claus called B!

Last year, I discovered The Big Guy at The Villages of Fairview.  It was such an awesome experience.  Santa was awesome with B. B brought him a gift of a self created Lego toy.  Santa accepted it graciously.  I cried happy tears.

We continued the tradition this year.  Our appointment is the first after their dinner break so there is no line.  It was a friend affair this year as well - 4 kids and moms.  We checked in, waiting less than 5 minutes, then B was the first to visit with Santa.  After our friends visited, Santa got them all together for a group picture.  We topped off the evening with dinner at Twisted Root.

It's a bit of drive from our house but so worth it.  Santa is wonderful, patient and kind, as are the elves!  The whole process took 30 minutes, including purchasing pictures.  The pictures are wonderful and they video the visit. You don't have to anything but enjoy the experience.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thank you TED-ED

B-man is obsessed with TED-ED.  He loves to watch the videos.  They are visually interesting and the information just sticks with him.

He learned about figurative language from TED-ED and taught it to the 7th graders at my school via video.

screen shot of TED-ED Hero's Journey video
One of his favorite video right now describes the hero's journey.  He used the information to help him write stories and work on stories for his video games he's planning.

But last Friday night, I got to use TED-ED to help him.  We went to see Moana, I wouldn't give away the story but suffice it to say Moana was in danger. The situation was bleak.  B-man was very upset.

Thanks to TED-ED, I was able to say "Remember the hero's journey?  What part is this?"

B perked up, "Oh this is a trial!"  He turned to his friend, "Don't worry, this is just a trial!"

Before learning about the hero's journey from TED-ED, B would not have had a context to relate to.  He definitely would not have had the words to help him understand. In the past, we might have had to leave the movie to calm down.  Believe me, we watched lots of movies until the trials!

But my favorite thing was what happened in the car after the movie.  B taught his friend and cousin the stages of the hero's journey and gave them examples from Moana.  It was amazing!

So, thank you TED-ED for giving my boy context and words. Thank you for stretching his mind.  Thank you for letting him learn what he wants when he wants.  Thank you for not caring that he's autistic or "just" in the 2nd grade.  Thanks for being open and accessible.

I am forever grateful.